In her exquisite new novel, acclaimed author Anita Brookner deals with one of the great dramas of our lives: growing up and leaving home. At twenty-six, Emma Roberts comes to the painful realization that if she is ever to become truly independent, she must leave her comfortable London flat and venture out into the wider world. This entails not only breaking free from a claustrophobic relationship with her reclusive, widowed mother but also shedding her inherited tendency toward melancholy. Emma yearns to make friends, attend parties, and have love affairs like other women, but to her these things seem forever out of reach-that is, until her college tutors find her a scholarship to study seventeenth-century garden design in Paris. Once settled in a small Paris hotel, Emma befriends Francoise Desnoyers, a vibrant young woman who is as confident as Emma is tentative, as provocative as Emma is reserved, and as worldly as Emma is naive. On a weekend visit to Francoise's beautiful country chateau, L'Ermitage, Emma is drawn into Francoise's problematic relationship with her imperious mother, who demands that Francoise marry a rich family friend to secure their future. For Emma, the glimpse into Francoise's turbulent life affords her a newfound and welcome respect for her own. But as she begins to date and to feel at home in her new city, Emma must make a decision: settle for a life of comfortable relationships and familiar routines, or hold out for "that evanescent hope of a good outcome which never deserts one, and which should never be abandoned."